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Review Group Joe the Barbarian #1

Written by John Martin on Tuesday, January 26 2010 and posted in Reviews
The pick for new comics shipping January 20th was put up for a group vote and the overwhelming choice was Joe the Barbarian #1 by Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy and Dave Stewart.


The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse’s News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

Grant Morrison always makes for a fun Review Group week.  To drink the Kool-Aid, or not to drink the Kool-Aid?  Or in the case of Joe the Barbarian, who cares about Grant Morrison?  This Sean Murphy guy is freaking amazing!

Review by starlord

This is more proof that anything Grant Morrison gives us of his own creations, is a superior read to 99.99% of everything he does for the big two. A young boy who is ridiculed by other children and has lost his father can create his own world to live in.
The story was actually comprehensive, not at all pretentious in the ways that Grant feels is necessary in his mainstream work. I love the art as well. It seemed to be a great fit for the beginning of this story. The house alone is worth the price of admission when it comes to the art.

At the same time, not much really happened except a very basic introduction, but then for a dollar, what more should you expect?

I enjoyed this and could find myself wanting more. Just like his Seaguy. But it has made me wonder if Grant just wants to work with the big guys to try and destroy them from the inside? (Except perhaps Superman) I just don't get how he could be so terrific in his own work and not get a simple concept like Batman or X-Men?

Still, I recommend this very much.

Story: 6
Art: 9
My Score: 7.5

Review by Chubbles

Morrison is a guy that I absolutely believe is one of the most talented writers of our generation. Sometimes he writes shit that I have no fucking idea what he's trying to do and other times I'm just blown away. Even in the stuff I am utterly confused I at least respect what he's trying to do. Final Crisis had brilliant ideas but failed in execution for me, a non-DC guy. This is a book that I probably would have passed on and grabbed the trade at some point but I couldn't pass on the one dollar price tag. I'm damn glad I did bc this is instantly added to my pull list. This has a very I Kill Giants feel to it and that is one of my favorite stories. Sean Murphy is a perfect fit for this comic. there were a lot of pages with little to no dialogue and that didn't hurt at all. As a side note, that kid’s room is awesome and I'd love to live in a house like that. Morrison dropped enough plot threads here to keep me thoroughly interested in sticking with the book. I am super excited to see where this goes, I just hope this book doesn't end on a sad note (I have an odd feeling that it will) but I am in for the ride regardless.

Story 8
Art 9.5
Overall 8.75

Review by Eli Katz

So, as a $1 comic, Joe the Barbarian is an amazing book. The art by Sean Murphy is rich and textured and beautifully detailed. He draws a number of full-page panels and demonstrates in them his ability to illustrate complex scenes with a perfect blend of realism and dynamic stylization. The page with the kid walking to his house as the bus drives off is simply amazing. A real masterpiece in a technical sense. Murphy has been on fire artistically since he did two issues of Hellblazer about a year ago. So I am very pleased that he will have the chance now to draw a long story and show off his considerable talents.

But that said, as an introductory chapter to an eight-issue story, I'm not sure what to make of Joe the Barbarian. We are introduced to Joe, a sickly teenage kid who is the clichéd artist-type tormented by the clichéd school bullies. We see that Joe comes from a broken home and that he considers his attic-bedroom a refuge from the ugliness of the outside world. And we also see Joe suffering a brief hallucinatory break from reality, where his toys come to life and introduce him to a nightmarish world. But we don't know where this story is headed or what this book is really about. In other words, there are a lot of introductions but not much action or development or even basic foreshadowing.

On one hand, it's difficult to rate Grant Morrison's story so far, because it's unfair to expect too much from the first chapter in an eight-chapter story. But on the other hand, aside from a few snappy lines ("This fairytale's on a one-way trip to hell"), nothing in the story made me want to read issue two. Joe is not particularly interesting as a character. Hallucinations are not particularly novel (especially in Grant Morrison stories). And talking toys have been done before. So, to be honest, if the art weren't so damn good, I don't think I'd make any effort to pick up future issues. It's especially hard to be enthusiastic about this book because it's poorly edited; it has typos, repeat words, and some very choppy dialogue in one key scene.

Joe the Barbarian may turn into a wonderfully written series. But the first issue is a very, very, very slow start.

Story: 6
Art: 10

Review by CHRIS!

I loved it. But more for the art than the story. I fucking LOVED the art.

The story was pretty simple. There really wasn't enough there to judge the book on. Right now, it just seems like Home Alone meets The Indian in the Cupboard.. hopefully Morrison doesn't deliver a turd with the rest of the issues.

Story: 7

Art: 10

Total: 8.5

Review by Daringd

I loved this. Thought it was straight up classic Morrison. A bit of a slow start but nevertheless I think we are in for a roller coaster ride of a book. The art my Sean Murphy was f#cking brilliant, e of the best art I’ve seen in a comic. I enjoyed the story but the art defiantly over shadowed it.

Overall 9.0/10

Review by Punchy

Story - We all know that Grant Morrison can be hit and miss, the almighty Godhead can write some of the best comics of all time, and then alternately spew out incomprehensible gibberish the next month. But overall, it appears to me that his best work is his own, creator-owned stuff, Seaguy, We3, all that jazz, it's awesome. Which is why I'm glad he's got a new Vertigo series out, Joe The Barbarian.

This first issue is a very decent start, there's not a lot that happens, but it's atmospheric, and told very well. This is the story of Joe, a young diabetic who is about to lose his house, who forgets to take his Insulin and trips out a magical fantasy world. What I like about this is how Morrison tells the story quite subtly. You may not even notice on first read-through that the Bully stole Joe's chocolate. I didn't notice that Joe left the door to his house open. There's no exposition, and it's a good thing, Morrison tried a kind of hyper-aggressive storytelling in Final Crisis and it was a massive failure, but this is a step away from that, and it works. This first issue moves quite slowly, some might say too slowly, but I think it works. I particularly loved the 2 or 3 silent pages where Joe walks through his house, Morrison has talked about how Joe's fantasy world mirrors the layout of his house, and while some readers probably skimmed through these pages, I imagine they contain some clues and set-up for the rest of the book.

The teenage angst is a little wrote at the moment, but it still rings true, maybe it's because I'm only just out of my teenage years, but I'm still a sucker for these kinds of stories. The page where Joe insults his dead dad is a real kicker.

But this isn't just a tale of teenage woes, there's a fantastical element, and it's pretty fantastic, you can tell that Morrison is having the time of his life writing the dialogue from the talking toys, blood and stuffing, etc, it's a delight. And seeing all these toys come to life is pretty special, You've got Cowboys, Transformers, GI Joe, Dinosaurs, even some DCU characters like Lobo and Batman and Robin. Is this the first time Batman has been in a Vertigo book? Can they do that? Even if it's an action figure? I saw a Superman action figure, but he wasn't in the fantasy world.

Joe The Barbarian is off to a slow start, I'm not quite sure what to make of it at this point, I think by #2 or #3 we'll have a better idea of where this is all going, but at this point, it's all promise, and I'm looking forward to see where Morrison takes us.

Art - Whereas Morrison may have slightly disappointed here, Sean Murphy certainly didn't. Murphy is an interesting case, he gets a lot of buzz and critical praise online, but he hasn't really drawn that many comics, 2 issues of Hellblazer and a Scarecrow story (and that Wolverine Alphabet thing, which is genius). But with Joe The Barbarian, he's proving he's more than just hype. His work here is truly stellar. The spread of the graveyard, the page of Joe's street, it all looks real and highly detailed. And the fantasyland is equally impressive. But I was most impressed with his design work on the house, in his Vertigo 'On The Ledge' Editorial, he talks about how he designed the house, and it is awesome. Joe's room is pretty much the best bedroom ever, the train, the rope ladder, it's just beautiful. On this showing, I think Murphy has what it takes to be the next big thing. just amazing. I hope he keeps it up.

Best Line - 'This fairytale's on a one-way trip to hell' Oh yeah.


Review by Jubilee

I read this. I don't know what to think. I went into this knowing it was a Morrison book and expected it to be crazy and out there, and it just wasn’t. The art was great, really really incredible stuff, it's just that the story was well generic. Which I didn't expect.


Review by Kerny

I really wanted to like this going into it. Instead, I can only say it was just alright. I understand Morrison was trying to set the mood or atmosphere here in the first ish, but C'MON MAN, this issue went ever so slowly. Also, like Joe, I am a diabetic and I also trip balls so that my bobblehead black suit Spidey talks to me (Re: Not at all Wink). That being said, I am still fully on board with this mini, because I think it has the potential to be really good

One of the main reasons I feel that way is Sean Murphy's art. I'd recommend re-readings of this just to look at all the detail he puts into it and excellent use of shadows. This is some of the best art I've seen in a comic in a while now.

The typos don't bother me. Hell, it happens. There's probably typos in this review. I'll throw in a extra point for it only being a buck

Story 6
Art 10
Overall 8

Review by doombug

Odd name for this book. Especially when the book mostly takes place in the real as Grant paints the story of a young diabetic boy named Joe. I like Joe in the issue, he seems to be about 15 and be a tiny bit troubled, mostly due to idiotic bullies.

I think that was a highlight for me of the read so far and definitely something I could easily see eye to eye with on Joe's part. He seems to have a strained relationship with his mother and doesn't handle his diabetes as strongly as he should.

The bully dialogue is on point and definitely hits too close for comfort for me as a reader. I hope something happens where Joe is able to put them in their place. He also seems to be a very talented artist and have the cute little girl next door interested in him. It's sort of like the Never Ending Story meets a bit of all the other 80's coming of age flicks.

The twist towards the end I am not sure what to make of it but I certainly had fun playing Where's Waldo with all the characters.

Sean Murphy's artwork is just beautiful here and definitely the highlight of the issue. It feels real and slightly cartoony at the same time which I really admire. Grant really does work with the best artists.

Verdict: this was a fun read and I enjoyed the mystery mapping itself out. Looks to be another I kill giants and that's never a bad thing.

Story: 9
art: 10
Overall: 9.5

Review by 48THRiLLS

Grant Morrison is lucky that Sean Murphy is buying into whatever story Grant is telling because with all the detail and beautiful work he put into this you can tell he believes in this comic. That being said he must know what lies beyond this issue because you don't really learn a damn thing in this introductory issue. I will not say it was poorly written because hell, I swear I turned 3 or 4 pages and there was nothing written at all. These is it real or is it in his head fantasy stories are not my thing (I did not care for 'I Kill Giants' either) so I need more of a hook than that to get me to want to keep reading and I did not find it here. I will say the art is top notch but it is rare for me to buy a comic just for the art, this may be the greatest next big creator owned series but the first issue was barely worth what I paid for it.

ART - 10

Review by HNutz

Basically, I picked it up because it was only a dollar but I'm not interested enough to keep on reading it.

Review by Old Man

Went out to the bar last night. Got to bed at 5 this morning. Got up at 9:30. What better time to re-read a Morrison book than in a state of lesser brain function.

Joe the Barbarian -- It's by Morrison. It doesn't have to make sense. All it has to do is suggest a much greater story is there, and to suggest that I don't have the smarts to figure it out. Was the title inspired by political pop culture icon Joe the Plumber?

Joe is a nerdy high school student. He is an artist, and he has a gerbil and a whole bunch of action figures.* In a cutsey twist, he doesn't live in his mother's basement, he lives in her attic!

Joe is also apparently a diabetic. This can be inferred from the story, but I understand Morrison has stated so in an interview. In the story, his mother tells Joe to make sure he eats his candy bar. I'm under the impression that a candy bar is eaten in emergency cases when a diabetic's blood sugar gets too low, not as an ongoing control agent. Then again, Morrison is so much smarter than I am that he may know differently.

The art is okay. It's very close to being very good. Maybe as we get further into the story the art will gain that extra little bit to make it very good. The house is supposedly integral to the story. It is drawn in detail for several panels, quite nicely, I might add. Is this house the house where Morrison grew up? Is that the meta context here? Am I searching too hard to find the great story that Morrison has in his head?

It's a Morrison story, so I will give the next issue a chance to win me other. From a lesser creator, I'd give this a 6. That it is from Morrison, and the artist is making an effort here, I'll give it a 7. But if the second issue doesn't impress me, I may go create my own fantasy world.

* Did you know the difference between an action figure and a doll? If it has a change of clothes, it's a doll.

Review by Frag It

It wasn't bad, but it took me 3 tries to read it because I kept getting interrupted.

I give it a 6.

Review by MrBlack

I enjoyed this book, despite not having much of a clue what was going on. Grant Morrison does a good job of introducing us to Joe, a talented young artist with some father issues and a target for local bullies. In addition, Joe is diabetic, and we see his mother cautioning him to eat a chocolate bar while on a field trip (I will get to that later). We also see that he has a strong connection to his house, and seems concerned over the possibility that he and his mother may be forced out of it for reasons yet unknown.

After going home and laying down for a nap, Joe wakes up and begins to hallucinate, which he seems to blame on his diabetes. He then sees a world made up of his action figures, who have been decimated by some unknown force and are in the midst of fleeing.
Like others here, I initially thought that Morrison simply did not do his research on diabetes. I did find, however, that low blood sugar can lead to hallucinations in some cases, so Joe's reaction is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. The chocolate bar is definitely out of the ordinary, but maybe his mother is trying to kill him or something; it's Morrison so anything is possible.

As for what any of this actually means, I have no clue. This may be a tale of a boy becoming a man, told through his diabetes-induced hallucination about his action figures. It could also be that Joe's hallucination has caused him to intersect with an actual alternate reality, a theme frequently touched on by Morrison. It could be nothing more than a simple hallucination, with the actual story dealing with the trials and tribulations of Joe in the real world. Or it could be something completely different; again, it's Morrison.

The big question is whether this is a satisfying story. I would say that as a first issue, it did its job of setting up the main character and teasing the audience just enough to get them to buy issue #2. That said, it would have been nice to have a little bit more of an idea of what is going on, but I am willing to forgive that of Morrison because he generally delivers on the promise of his ideas.

Sean Gordon Murphy does an excellent job on art chores. It is very detailed and Murphy structures his layouts perfectly. The POVs used by Murphy are very interesting, particularly when we are first shown Joe's bedroom, and on the last page. In each, Murphy uses a POV that fits the needs of each panel like a glove. With the bedroom, the POV establishes the actual size of the room Joe has chosen to live in, compared to the modest sized rooms in the rest of the house. In the second, Murphy manages to fit in a large cast of characters while still showing devastation on the horizon and isolating Joe, both physically and mentally. The finishing work is a little rougher than I'm used to seeing in comics, but it adds a nice energy and roughness to the finished product.

I enjoyed this comic, and I am definitely intrigued enough to check out the second issue. I do not know if I would recommend it based on this issue alone, but the art is wonderful, and the story has a great deal of potential, despite numerous editing flaws and a potentially major research mistake by the writer.

Story: 7.5
Art: 9
Overall: 8.5

Review by amlah6

The first time I read this it came off a bit odd and I think maybe reading and taking part in some of the discussion here clouded my judgment.

After putting it aside for a few days and taking a fresh look at it, I liked it a lot. It does have a few of Morrison's idiosyncrasies with pacing that have been a part of his work for the past couple of years, but it didn't bother me at all upon re-reading the issue. There is a fuzzying of the real world science to get where Morrison is going with this, but I don't think the how stuff is happening is as important to the story as what is happening. Things here were certainly set up well enough that I won't think twice about reading the rest of Joe the Barbarian when the series has been completed.

Morrison's story however feels a bit inconsequential when compared to the contributions of Sean Murphy and Dave Stewart. Morrison may be credited as "Creator", but Sean Murphy owns this book. This was just a stunning achievement in detail, I find my self looking at the issue again and again and I find something new each time. I never read the editorial page in Vertigo books, but for whatever reason I did this time and it's certainly worth it for everyone to take the time and give it a quick read.

Story: 8
Art: 10
Overall: 9

Review by guitarsmashley

So I will start by echoing everyone sentiment that this book is absolutely gorgeous. Sean Murphy is a true talent that I think we'll be the next major exclusive contract signing by DC or stolen by Marvel. I've also been reading all the complaints of the lack of direction or things not on page of the comic that's happening off the page, well I didn't have that problem at all. I think Grant is telling a great story that I will be waiting till it's collected only because I don't feel like waiting 2 years for an 8 issue mini. Morrison is not treating you like an idiot and letting you figure things out for yourself. This was a great 1st issue and I look forward to a promising series however long it takes to be collected. Also Joe has a pet rat...so do I. The pet rat puts it over for me and I give the book a score of

9.9. Great first issue.

Review by GLX

7.8* out of 10* Just a warm up issue. Still interested in the series, though.

Review by GHERU

I'm not going to write a huge review for this book, but I liked it. The $1 price tagged helped me decide not only to purchase this book, but also to give #2 a shot since I'll still be ahead of the curve on average price per comic.

Was it perfect, no, there were some confusing parts, but I am in the mood to re-read the Books of Magic and Joe seems to be a lot like the early issues of that series (the ongoing, not Gaiman's mini).

The art was fantastic, and the "silent" pages told a wonderful story

story - 7
art - 9
score - 8

Review by john lewis hawk

First off, the best part, the art. Sean Murphy's going to places. The art was detailed, realistic, emotional, and cartoonish and pulling off all of those things is hard. Dave Stewart, the colorist, also needs to be mentioned as guy has done great work before but the colors on this issue are great.

As for the story, interesting premise and has some strong dialogue (which I feel is a weakness of Morrison's) but it doesn't develop enough to satisfy. If this issue was more than a dollar, I would feel ripped off. While I'm definitely not getting the next issue, I'll definitely be checking out the trade even if it's just to stare at Murphy's pretty art.


Review by thefourthman

An interesting, if somewhat boring and by the numbers start saved by breathtaking art.

"It’s a sparse and pedestrian effort. Maybe it is a reaction to fanboy outcry over so much of Final Crisis happening between panels and off page. Whatever the reason, Morrison takes his time with this book. Instead of a light and overly decompressed book, we get a deftly dense read. Partially because the kid is such a cliche, but also because there is detail for days. There isn’t a lot of dialogue and the pieces of the puzzle are not highlighted in neon, but somehow the scribe manages to get the kind of characterization that a novelist would achieve in 50 or 60 pages.

Part of this is thanks to Murphy’s incredible artwork. While the words and script may be almost bohemian in their nonsuperfluous nature, the art is decadent in detail. It is easy to imagine this house being inhabited by a member of The Goonies. The atmospheric and at times hypnotic artwork is the real star here. The pencils show off the town’s personality and, more importantly, the house’s character. Even better, where other artists have failed the writer recently, Murphy makes sure that all the information needed to understand what is going on (as much as it is understandable this issue) is in the panel."

To read the rest of thefourthman's review, go here: http://brokenfrontier.com/reviews/p/detail/joe-the-barbarian-1

Story - 5
Art 10
Overall 7.5

Review by Pfffft! (via telegram)

It's risky to anticipate a new Grant Morrison venture these days, but he's been one of my favorite writers for years and I've been a fan of the Vertigo imprint from day one so I've been looking forward to this comic. Does it deliver? Well yes, to the extent it's setting up the pieces quite literally for the story to come.

Some folks have been searching for the meta-type of of concept but I will just say I was struck by the layout of Joe's house and the detail almost like a diorama or dollhouse if you will. Likewise the strangely wooden demeanor of Joe's mother and the fact that his father was in the army also brought certain toy based archetypes to mind. Is Joes' dead dad a veteran of the war in Iraq or is he G.I. Joe? Probably the former, but that's the way the story and art may have thrown some people, especially as it regards Joe's diabetic condition. I thought it was fairly well done and a welcome relief from "Joe you know you havve diabetes and must watch your blood sugar" etc. etc. or similar overly wordy declarations.

As to the toys, someone explain to me why toy Robin or toy Superman weren't helping the injured toy Batman here. I imagin a falling out involving several tiny toy weenises and a lot of jealousy, but that might be the cough syrup talking.

Not bad for a start, I give it an 8.

That gives Joe the Barbarian #1 a group score of 7.97.  Pretty good score and with 21 reviews, that makes this the second most reviewed pick since the Review Group found it's home here at the Outhouse.  Love him or loathe him, people read Grant Morrison comics either way. 

For more talk about Joe, the benefits of $1 first issues and to see just how much Punchy hates talking pricing which in turn just makes everyone talk about it more, join us in this week's thread (http://www.theouthousers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=35785) found in the News Stand forum where you are also invited to post your own review. 

GHERU has the pick for January 27th and he selected Robocop #1 from Dynamite Entertainment.  Look for the new thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to join in on the fun.

Robocop #1

Writer: Rob Williams
Penciller/Inker: Fabiano Neves

Dynamite Entertainment proudly presents the dynamic debut of Robocop by writer Rob (Classwar) Williams and artist Fabiano (MARVEL ZOMBIES VS. THE ARMY OF DARKNESS) Neves! Under two awesome covers - one by the sensational Stephen Segovia and the other by Dynamite's newest artistic sensation (and the pupil of artist David Finch) Johnny D! - Dynamite goes back to basics as it unveils the dystopian, deeply satirical, and all-out violent world of Robocop.
This is ROBOCOP meets the conspiracy theory mystery of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, following on from Paul Verhoeven's original by mixing high action, extreme violence and satire. Plus: the return of ED-209!


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